Another study about e-cigs: They’re great! Or at least much better than cigarettes

e-cig graphic

A glowing study about e-cigs out just came out of England this week that in some ways 180 degrees contradicts another study done at the University of Southern California.

Public Health England came out with an absolutely glowing report on e-cigs …. so glowing that I’m immediately left a little skeptical about who was really behind it and what their agendas may have been. However, I can’t really question the biggest conclusion in the report, which is e-cigs are 95 percent safer than cigarettes. I can buy that. The report calls this, “the best estimate so far…”

The report suggests that e-cigs may one day be dispensed like a medicine such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum to help smokers quit.

From a Guardian article:

While stressing that e-cigarettes are not free from risk, PHE now believes that e-cigarettes “have the potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco”.

The message was backed by the government’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, who nevertheless cautioned that “there continues to be a lack of evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes”. She said they should only be used as a means to help smokers quit.

“I want to see these products coming to the market as licensed medicines. This would provide assurance on the safety, quality and efficacy to consumers who want to use these products as quitting aids, especially in relation to the flavourings used, which is where we know least about any inhalation risks.”

Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: “E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm.

“The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”

Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University, London, one of the independent authors of the review, said: “My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.”

I’m all for e-cigs being used as a smoking cessation tool. Studies are very mixed as far as e-cigs’ effectiveness for quitting cigarettes, but I know the anecdotal information is pretty strong. I’ve seen tons of e-cig users online absolutely swearing by them (poor Haruko got into it with some of these folks) as “life-saving,” a “Godsend,” a “miracle.” etc., etc. You see so much of that anecdotal testimony online that you have to take it seriously. My attitude is when all else has failed, try them. You have nothing to lose.

And I really like the idea of e-cigs being prescribed and only sold over the counter at pharmacies, etc. That would make it much more difficult for kids to get them and to get started using them for their nicotine jolt rather than cigarettes.

However, this is where I think the English study goes off the rails and I think makes a dangerous assertion. The study also suggests there is zero evidence that e-cigs leads to kids smoking. This completely contradicts a study from USC that came out just the day before, which states that kids who take up vaping are more likely to use tobacco than kids who never vape.

From the Guardian article:

The switch in policy towards e-cigarettes coincided with publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association of research from Los Angeles suggesting that high school students who had use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to try tobacco.

But Hajek said this did not show that vaping leads to smoking. “It just shows that people who are attracted to e-cigarettes are the same people who are attracted to smoking. People who drink white wine are more likely to try red wine than people who do not drink alcohol.”

Well, when other studies have said otherwise, colour me skeptical on this conclusion at best.